Final Rule – Part 83

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APNewsBreak: Indian Tribe Recognition Process Overhauled

WASHINGTON — Jun 29, 2015, 9:56 AM ET
By KEVIN FREKING Associated Press
 Associated Press

The Obama administration is making it easier for some Indian tribes to obtain federal recognition, addressing a longstanding grievance of many Native Americans.

The new regulation updates a 37-year-old process that has been roundly criticized as broken because of the many years and mounds of paperwork that typically went into each application.

But the effort to address those criticisms generated a backlash of its own, with some lawmakers and existing tribes with casino operations complaining that the administration’s original proposals set the bar too low.

The Obama administration made changes in the final rule that answers many of those concerns, but not all. Kevin Washburn, an assistant secretary at the Department of Interior, plans to announce the regulation Monday during a National Congress of American Indians conference in Minnesota.

Federal acknowledgment means a tribe is treated as a nation within a nation, able to set up its own government, legal system, and taxes and fees. Recognition also brings critical federal investments in medical care, housing and education. It also can lead to tribes opening casinos in future years through a separate approval process.

Washburn told The Associated Press that the regulatory changes will greatly enhance transparency by letting the public see most of the documents submitted by the petitioning groups via the Internet.

The changes will also give tribal groups facing rejection the chance to take their case to an administrative judge before a final determination is made.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the new regulations for tribal recognition “makes good on a promise to our First Americans to clarify, expedite and honor a meaningful process for federal acknowledgment.”

The most scrutinized changes will be the new criteria that must be met for recognition to occur.

Indian groups seeking recognition will no longer have to show that outside parties identified them as an Indian entity dating back to 1900. Washburn said the requirement clashed with the reality of the times. Many Indians were attempting to hide their identity from outside sources out of fear they would be discriminated against, or worse. “They would have been crazy not to have,” said Washburn, a member of the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma.

Some federally recognized tribes had urged that the requirement be kept.

“We cannot understand why a legitimate petitioner could not produce external documentation of its existence,” Robert Martin, chairman of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, testified during a recent congressional hearing.

Petitioners also had to show that their tribe has existed as a community and exercised political control over its members since first contact with European settlers, or as early as 1789. The proposed regulation had changed the threshold to 1934. After much pushback, the final rule sets the date at 1900 — more than a century of documentation that includes “a time when it was dangerous to be Indian,” Washburn said.

Under the current system, which began in 1978, the government has recognized 17 tribes and rejected the petitions of 34 other groups.

The Obama administration had originally envisioned giving groups who were denied federal recognition another opportunity to re-petition the government. That provision wasn’t included in the final rule.

SAP Opposing House Interior Approps Bill H.R. 2822 – TODAY!


Yesterday, the Administration issued a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) (attached) opposing the House Interior Appropriations bill, H.R. 2822, that will be considered in the House on Thursday.  It contains the following language related to the Part 83 reforms:


“Federal Acknowledgement of American Indian Tribes. Language under the heading “Bureau of Indian Affairs, Administrative Provisions” in the bill would block DOI from finalizing, implementing, administering, or enforcing the Administration’s proposed Federal acknowledgment rule, preventing DOI’s effort to improve the regulations governing the process and criteria by which the Secretary of the Interior acknowledges an Indian Tribe.”


Also, the Senate Interior Appropriations draft bill and report were finally made available (attached).  Neither contains language related to Part 83 reform.

SAP – House Approps Bill

Draft S Int-Env FY2016 Bill pt1

Draft S Int-Env FY2016 Bill pt2

Draft S Int-Env FY2016 Rpt pt1

Fed Recognition New Rule Attacked in Interior’s Appropriations Bill

A rider that would stop the Bureau of Indian Affairs from revising procedures for federal acknowledgment of Indian tribes has been attached to the Interior Department’s 2016 spending plan by the House Appropriations Subcommittee.


Watch hearing here


Dear Concerned Native Americans,

Please contact your Congressman and the everyone that is on the Full House of Representative Appropriations Committee. Please, see the attached list of who is on the appropriation committee.  Also, I have attached  what to say verbally , or one to send per email or as a fax. This is not just about Federal recognition, but about funding..  Ask your friends, neighbors,other tribal people or non American Indians to call and ask for the Rider on page 35 be removed.
Indian Country needs to unite regardless of status.
Thank you for your assistance in this matter.
Nancy Carnley

None of the funds may be used to finalize, implement, administer, or enforce the proposed Federal Acknowledgement of American Indian Tribes

Many thanks to Patty Ferguson-Bohnee for this news!
Note the hearing is 16 June at 10:15 a.m.

The House Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies marked up the attached bill yesterday without any changes.  The bill will go to the House Committee on Appropriations next week.  The committee meeting is scheduled for June 16, 2015 at 10:15 AM  in Rayburn 2359.

There is a rider on page 35 that reads as follows: (see below link to atachments)

Provided further, That none of the funds made available by this or any other Act may be used by the Secretary to finalize, implement, administer, or enforce the proposed rule entitled ‘‘Federal Acknowledgement of American Indian Tribes’’ published by the Department of the Interior in the Federal Register on May 29, 2014 (79 Fed. Reg. 21 30766 et seq.).

This language seeks to frustrate the implementation of the new federal acknowledgment regulations once released.  Please see the attached NCAI alert requesting that the rider be removed.

This issue will be discussed at the Federal Recognition Taskforce meeting during the NCAI Mid-Year Conference.  The meeting will be held on Sunday, June 28, 2015 in St. Paul, Minnesota from 1 PM – 4 PM in Meeting Room 10 at St. Paul Rivercentre.

Patty Ferguson-Bohnee
Faculty Director, Indian Legal Program
Director, Indian Legal Clinic
Clinical Professor of Law
Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law
PO Box 877906
Tempe, AZ  85287

NCAI Alert – Appropriations Rider on Tribal Acknowledgment